Daphne’s Den of Darkness: 5 Small Town Horror Movies

Small towns are known for being tight knit, often portrayed as the idyllic location for a quiet, peaceful life. But small towns are also secretive and isolated. They’re the perfect setting for horror.

Hold the Dark (2018)

Russell Core, an expert in wolf behavior, travels to the tiny town of Keelut, Alaska after he receives a plea from a mother who claims her son was carried off by the pack. But things are not what they seem, and Core finds himself drawn into a dangerous fight for survival.

You can watch Hold the Dark on Netflix.

The Crazies (2010)

Some of the residents of Ogden Marsh are beginning to act strangely, exhibiting violent behavior in the wake of a military plane crash that contaminated the water supply. The military shows up to contain the situation, forcing the uninfected to evade both the soldiers and their own neighbors to escape.

You can rent The Crazies on Amazon.

The Fog (1980)

The coastal town of Antonio Bay discovers the grizzly secret behind their town’s founding when supernatural events begin to occur. A ghostly fog reappears along with a 100-year-old sunken ship and revenants of murdered passengers seeking revenge.

You can watch The Fog on Shudder.

30 Days of Night (2007)

Barrow, Alaska is preparing for the annual polar night, which will plunge the town into darkness for thirty days, when a group of vampires shows up. The vampires slaughter most of the town and the survivors are forced to hide, flee, and fight to survive.

You can rent 30 Days of Night on Amazon.

The Town that Dreaded Sundown (1977)

The town of Texarkana is terrorized by violent and mysterious attacks on local couples. For months, the killer stalks the residents, his face obscured by a burlap sack, while authorities try to hunt him down.

You can watch The Town that Dreaded Sundown free on Amazon Prime.

Whether its zombies, ghosts, vampires, serial killers, or the residents themselves, small towns prove they can hold big horror. What’s your favorite small town horror story?

It Came From the Vault: Kbatz: Thanksgiving Treats!

 

 

 

 

 

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Looking for some movies to watch this Thanksgiving? Here’s some suggestions that still hold true… Which one or two will you be watching this holiday?

 

Tasty Thanksgiving Treats!

By Kristin Battestella

Put the babes to bed and send the boys to the football game while you pour a glass of Chianti and nestle in for these demented families, cannibals, hungry werewolves, thirsty vampires, and more tasty terrors!

childrenofthecornChildren of the Corn This original isn’t the best, and the entire series is fairly lowbrow in plot and effects. Nevertheless, all those rustling cornfields, creepy kids, and plant worship go a long way for a post-Halloween Harvest marathon. Name players come and go despite the low-budget status; and even if you’ve never actually seen all-count ‘em-seven films, you’ve probably heard of ‘He who walks behind the rows.’ I prefer Children of the Corn III: Urban Harvest myself. And to think, I grew up on a farm.

HannibalThis 2001 sequel to Silence of the Lambs obviously has big shoes to fill. Thankfully and blessedly, Giancarlo Giannini (Casino Royale) is great, and the Italian scenery is flat out awesome. Ray Liotta (Goodfellas) is sleazy and so much fun while the twisted Gary Oldman (Bram Stoker’s Dracula) is unrecognizable. Even in the shadow of prior Clarice Starling Oscar winner Jodie Foster, Julianne Moore (The Hours) shapes her own Clarice beautifully. And but, of course returning Oscar winner Anthony Hopkins is wonderful. He is without a doubt the star here, and does the most in what seems like less screen time. The one on one dialogue and action sequences are perfect, with fine suspense pacing, intelligentsia horror, class, sexy, and gore. Unfortunately, however, great the performances are in getting there, the storyline does meander. Director Ridley Scott’s (Blade Runner) ending is somewhat flat and leaves a ‘What was the point of all this?’ feeling. Nevertheless, I applaud the twisted romantic aspects and creepy for adults only production. Twilight wishes it could be like this.

The Insatiable Sean Patrick Flanery (Young Indiana Jones) and Michael Biehn (The Terminator) are both very cool guys who, after some thinsatiableseriously great stuff, have made their share of clunkers. With that in mind, one wonders if this unconventional 2007 vampire comedy romance can pull off what is so often an uneasy mixing of genres. The mood certainly doesn’t start as horror, and the “Average Joe” life sucks montages get old fast. Actual time punch cards, full-size desktops, pop up AOL email, and typing in all caps replete with old lingo such as “shit is wack” and “word”? The funny and sexy in that anti-hip sardonic way also tries a little too hard, and the black comedy is uneven between the horror research and dark action. Some jokes work – ordering blood on the web, needing a coupon for a big bag of lime – Biehn is bemusing as a wheelchair bound vampire-hunting badass, too. However, some of the dream-esque flashes are off, and the bare minimum blood and gore and standard sweaty chick in a tank top hardly warrant an R rating. Charlotte Ayanna isn’t necessarily weak, but the character is too cute, hip, and poorly drawn to be sexy, evil, and dangerous. Miss Teen USA a vampire does not make. The end is a bit obvious, yes, and the pace never quite balances the humor and dark or seriousness. This should have been a straight horror comedy instead of some depressing mood thing – and yet this nothing stellar, direct to video fair is good for a fun late night viewing.

medium-raw-night-of-the-wolf-2010Medium Raw – John Rhys-Davies (Lord of the Rings) is good to start this 2010 wolf meets asylum romp. The maniacs and asylum hang-ups are indeed better than the usual haunted madhouse types, but the wolf designs are unfortunately kind of dumb. Writer/director/hero Andrew Cymek (Dark Rising) is a bit too new and weak as well, but the scary ideas and effective killing concepts are played pretty straight. Okay, so the title is totally stupid, the subtitle Night of the Wolf is even worse, the twist is a bit obvious, and there’s nothing superior here. However, the getting there is good with a few better than expected jump moments. Great claustrophobic sets allow room for dark fears to play (even if that dang title doesn’t give the film much of a chance!) and uses of red lighting, cannibalism, kitchens, and more warped fetishes add to the creepy. Modern jagged camera attempts and silly, unnecessary dream/ghost hinges over do it just a bit, but the Red Riding Hood motifs are just enough. Refreshingly not used for sexy boobs and nudity distractions, Brigitte Kingsley (W/D/H’s wife) and a surprisingly fun Mercedes McNab (Buffy) keep it all together along with X-Files alum William B. Davis. I do however, wonder why new horror movies waste time on intercutting cool credits? No one else does anymore.

motel-hellMotel Hell You just know what the secret ingredient is in this 1980 country cannibal thriller! Ironic use of hillbilly music and television evangelist Wolfman Jack contribute to the charming and quaint but disturbed feeling here – the mix of late seventies styles and early farmhouse contentment doesn’t seem dated at all. Hanging pigs and slaughterhouse gore aren’t too over the top, but enough bloody suggestion and touches of nudity and kinky accent the dark humor and bizarre yet sentimental familial relationships. Rory Calhoun (How to Marry a Millionaire) has some sick and disturbing fun here yet remains strangely endearing, heck, even likeable. Vincent Smith’s reducing the riff raff population and keeping the community fed – it all seems like a real win win, and the winking tone pokes fun at this irony without being laugh out loud. The audience can chuckle at the soothing New Age eight track music amid the escalating events and interfering romance. Who’s next? When will the good guys find out? The pig mask and chainsaw duel in the finale are stupid and not scary now, hampering the otherwise bemusing wit and multi layered action. However, all in all this is some down home simmering and well done entertainment.

Pumpkinhead0-1988

Pumpkinhead Lance Henriksen (Near Dark) stars in this delightful 1988 backwoods tale full of deepening vengeance and deadly mayhem. Late Oscar winning creature master Stan Winston (Terminator 2, Jurassic Park) directs this taut, sorrowful thriller beautifully while fellow effects designer and performer Tom Woodruff handles the gruesome titular monster. Understandably, this does make the monster look slightly Alien in stature, but the mystical resurrection and freaky pursuits remain solid thanks to the familial revenge and action torment from Henriksen. Awesome as his design work is, why didn’t Winston direct more? Sweet a character cult favorite as he is, why wasn’t Henriksen a leading man more? His predicament is instantly relatable for parents – how far would you go? Pumpkinhead does what the vengeful aren’t capable of doing, but his deeds consume them nonetheless. Perhaps the shocks, thrills, or gore here aren’t super scary, but these ends justifying the means questions are scary concepts in themselves. Yes, there’s no law enforcement, some redneck dialogue is frustrating, and the middle of nowhere witchery may be too much for viewers wanting more polish. Fortunately, there’s atmospheric red lighting and nighttime photography, and the largely outdoor happenings are perfectly dirty, dusty, and desperate – matching the very effective personal scares, dementedness, and questions on right and wrong perfectly.

Kbatz: Ghostly Viewings!

Ghostly Viewing Pleasures

By Kristin Battestella

‘Tis the season for a bevy of haunted house scares, poltergeists run amok, and eerie apparitions! Young and old, recent or classic – stay in with these ghosts galore if you dare!

Burnt OfferingsFor only $900, Karen Black (Five Easy Pieces, The Day of the Locust), Oliver Reed (Oliver!, Gladiator), and their aunt Bette Davis (Hush Hush Sweet Charlotte, All About Eve) rent a spooky California mansion for the entire summer from kooky Burgess Meredith (Rocky, Grumpy Old Men) and his sister Eileen Heckart (Butterflies Are Free). You know this is too good to be true! Director Dan Curtis (Dark Shadows) takes his time with Robert Marasco’s source novel, developing the happy characters in the first half hour then building the mystery and haunted house disturbia towards the sinister changes to come. Although the 1976 design is quite dated- ascots, station wagons- the period flair is now cool and backwater scary style. The Dunsmuir House filming location is so, so sweet, too- and oh, that chauffeur! Yes, it’s merely PG and has obvious similarities to Phantasm, but there are still plenty of scares, innuendo, and twists to delight here.

The Conjuring –Vera Farmiga (Up in the Air) and Patrick Wilson (Insidious) lead this 2013 possession thriller along with Ron Livingston (Office Space) and Lili Taylor (Six Feet Under). Although some of the cast may seem a bit too modern and it’s tough to tell the kids apart at times, the 1968 beginning has the fashions, feeling, and creepy dolls for immediate atmosphere. No attempted cool opening credits waste time – the opening crawl explaining the true story basis and Warren demonology casework does just fine before the 1971 station wagons, old TV static, home movie reels, and ominous music accent the main Perron tale. Granted, there is always a hardened dad, nobody pays attention to the dog’s warnings, the clocks all stop at the same time, and they go into the previously boarded up basement! The Warrens also seem fake and over confident to start, withholding information amid a slightly uneven back and forth establishment of the Perron haunted house period Poltergeist meets Ghost Hunters Warren family relationships. Fortunately, the plots and sympathies come together amid foggy lakes, eerie wide camera lens perspectives, uneasy upside down pans, creaking doors, and sleepwalking kids – that’s a creepy blindfolded and clapping game they play! The editing on the jump moments from director James Wan (Saw) is surprisingly subtle, startling the simmering audience at different times with different things and allowing for a personal build instead of in your face, all the time unfulfillment. Kids in peril, bodily bruises, excellent silence and darkness, heavy breathing, and over the shoulder fearful reveals keep the phenomenon intimate despite the old time research montage and cliché centuries old history. Most visual tricks happen in camera; the pacing focuses on fear and personal reaction even as complex, multiple occurrences mount thanks to an off kilter contrast, stillness, or action movement. Horror fans accustomed to recent under 90 minute standards may find the near two hours here long or too similar to classic supernatural fair, but the tension follows through from start to finish, progressing to a wild exorcism finale.

The HauntingIt might be fun to make a marathon with the 1999 redo, but for serious chills, stick with this 1963 classic. You don’t see one damn thing in this picture, and that’s what makes it so terrifying. Horror students and film teachers take note of how mere lighting, sound, and visual tricks keep us on the edge of our seats. Psychology, parapsychology, haunted mansions, and a genuinely fearful looking cast. You don’t need anything else, except to continue the sinister vibes with the source novel The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson.

PoltergeistMaybe in our rapidly changing television technologies, this one will loose some of its luster someday. For old school folks like me, however, who remember big old console sets full of static, Poltergeist never gets old. The warnings of technology being conduits for angry spirits, beasts in the closet, and demonic toys combined with adorable child victims and sassy little psychics remind us to respect the dead and appreciate the line between life and death. Naturally, there are sub par sequels, but behind the scenes documentaries detailing the tragedies surround this film are far more interesting. And the blu-ray is smashing!

 The Woman in BlackHarry Potter star Danielle Radcliffe does well in this 2012 nuHammer creepy haunted house ghost story adapted by Jane Goldman (Stardust, X-Men: First Class) from Susan Hill’s source novel. There’s a very nice gothic spirit at work thanks to the moody history, ghostly atmosphere, and mostly silent, one-man scares. Suspicious townsfolk and freaky kid deaths add to the sudden effects and camera tricks, and candlelight and darkness up the sinister for an overall, quite effective spooky. Though the period settings are perfectly decrepit in addition to the smart, darker photography, there is just a little too much drab unnecessarily weighing down the film’s look. Perhaps there was an intentional kinship to something black and white or a depressing palette meant to mirror Radcliffe’s widower Arthur Kipps and his desperate state of mind. However, this devoid, colorless, overly digital, saturated dreary feels amiss –we have the spooky and disturbing elsewhere in set decorations, story, and character. There’s no need to add this layer of off putting heavy – in fact, some rich late Victorian color and flair would have gone a long way in the household fears, local smarmy, and child scary simply because the viewer would have found something pleasing, if creepy, for the eye. This doesn’t look fun to watch, and some horror audiences expecting more action or panache may be disappointed by this style. There’s also a few plot holes and missed opportunities or speculation with Ciaran Hinds (There Will Be Blood) as the upstanding, decidedly not superstitious Sam Daily. Were there townsfolk involved in the ghost causing history? Did Kipps really bring the titular vengeance as the bereaved claim or was something else at work? What the F happened to the dog? There’s room for some debate in the tale as it isn’t all explained in one big reveal, but a few clarifications would have been nice – especially since this budding sequel talk sounds kind of crappy. Despite a few questions and visual flaws, the 90-plus minutes here keep things ominous – the shocks and suspense happen without resorting to the crassness, gore, or nudity we so often find today. Bravo!